Uncertain future for Leyland Leisure Centre

Coun Ken Jones is concerned about the future of Leyland Leisure Centre
Coun Ken Jones is concerned about the future of Leyland Leisure Centre

The spotlight has been cast over the uncertain future of Leyland Leisure Centre as questions are raised over who should run the facilities.

The outsourcing firm which manages the leisure centre in Lancastergate wants to sell on the contract.

Serco also manages Penwortham and Bamber Bridge leisure centres, and the South Ribble Tennis Club in Bamber Bridge, but is seeking to exit its local authority leisure partnerships.

The South Ribble agreement with Serco is valid for another six years, but the council is now being urged to cancel the contract altogether and take responsibility for its leisure facilities in-house.

Speaking at a full council meeting, Leyland councillor Ken Jones, who also sits on the scrutiny committee, said: “Serco is looking to end its contracts because it isn’t making money. What does that mean for Leyland and Penwortham leisure centres, and the tennis club?

“We should seriously consider bringing our contracts back in-house, because if Serco isn’t making any money, what company can?”

The council’s cabinet member for leisure and healthy communities, Coun Phil Smith, responded: “We do have a legally binding contract up to 2021, so if we don’t agree to remove it, they will have to stay where they are.

“It is very concerning though, and it does mean there are risks, but it could mean there are new opportunities as well.”

Serco insists it isn’t because of financial reasons that it wants to sell the leisure part of the company.

A spokesman told the Guardian: “Serco recently announced that its future strategy is to focus on five core areas, which means we are looking to potentially dispose of our leisure business.

“This is a good business with a strong future, but it does not fit with the company’s strategy going forwards.

“We feel it will be better placed to serve customers and develop under new ownership.

“We are in regular communication with the council and the Leisure Trust regarding this process, and in the meantime we will continue to deliver the high quality of service customers expect from us.”

Serco took over the running of leisure centres for the South Ribble Leisure Partnership in June 2005.

It manages 70 leisure facilities on behalf of 22 clients across the country.

If the leisure business is sold, existing staff would remain employed at the centre.

South Ribble’s scrutiny committee is due to hold its annual inspection of the borough’s leisure facilities this month, and will be discussing it fully at a public meeting in March.

Chair of the scrutiny committee, Coun Mick Titherington, said: “At the top of the agenda will be what the implications are for the council.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to give us some answers and options.”